DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Requirements Management Tool for Design of Effective Human Machine Systems with Evolving Technologies

Navy SBIR 22.1 - Topic N221-068
ONR - Office of Naval Research
Opens: January 12, 2022 - Closes: February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est)

N221-068 TITLE: DIGITAL ENGINEERING - Requirements Management Tool for Design of Effective Human Machine Systems with Evolving Technologies

OUSD (R&E) MODERNIZATION PRIORITY: Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML);Autonomy;General Warfighting Requirements (GWR)

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Human Systems;Information Systems

OBJECTIVE: Develop an interactive environment that allows all stakeholders in the Acquisition lifecycle to participate in the design of a ‘platform’ using a set of tools and supporting methodology for systematically capturing requirements and decisions made for the human components of complex human-machine systems from initial system conception, through systems design, and on into systems acquisition and deployment.

DESCRIPTION: Mismatches between system requirements and human operator capabilities are a recurring problem that are being exacerbated by the rapid evolution of automation & "smart" technologies [Ref 1]. Design and acquisition of Naval systems cannot anticipate the capabilities on the near and far term horizons. Deciding which functions (tasks, jobs) of a human–machine system should be allocated to the human and which to the machine (typically a computer) is one of the most essential activities within human factors research [Refs 2-4]. A new approach to managing human requirements and matching them to technical capabilities throughout the development and acquisition process is needed. A system is needed that captures and documents those functions and capabilities that are determined to be fundamentally human and they must be documented and tracked throughout the system design and acquisition process.

This SBIR topic seeks innovative approaches to identify, document and systematically track those task functions and capabilities that are assigned to Sailors or Marines as they are proscribed to human operators throughout the design and acquisition process. By capturing initial design decisions – and their underlying decision trees – and advances in technology and how they impact the role of humans in the system will be documented. Further, changes in capabilities enabled with future technologies can be accommodated and upgraded/updated recommendations could be made throughout the platform’s lifecycle that adequately address the impacts to human operators and users. The evolution of systems must be considered in parallel with recommendations to the Manpower, Personnel, Training & Education lifecycle that prepares Warfighters to use these systems. Accounting for these advances will ensure that platform/system designs will continue to account for and address the needs of our Sailor and Marine end users as technologies evolve – without risking mission effectiveness.

The tools developed through this effort will assist in identifying, defining, and specifying the role of humans in using technologies in complex systems. The desired system would characterize those functions that are determined to be fundamentally human, and which must be addressed throughout the design and acquisition process, regardless of what technology solutions might be brought to bear as the system evolves. The system should provide operational descriptions of the functions, fundamental assumptions and assertions for the role of the humans interacting with these systems, along with objective (quantifiable) metrics for human performance with the system being developed. The desired capability will create a record of what humans are expected to do in the systems, and how they are addressed through the design, acquisition, and deployment process. The system would document design decisions and tradeoffs that are made, ensure that requirements are appropriately addressed, and provide structured documentation. While the desired system should be broadly applicable to a range of human-machine system teams, of particular interest are those hybrid systems that involve significant decision-making support or human-automation/autonomy interactions. Both types of systems may evolve with the introduction of artificial intelligence and/or machine learning, and significant evolution in capabilities are expected, so use cases addressing the use of the proposed design tool(s) for these applications is highly desired. Failure to adequately consider and manage these issues during system design, development and acquisition reduce platform resiliency at the cost of a sub-optimized force and reduced mission success for the entire Naval enterprise.

PHASE I: Address the state of the art in system design and functional requirements tracking tools. Define how the engineering tool(s) to be developed will capture, document and track requirements related to human roles and activities in complex human-machine systems. Develop at least two use cases for how the proposed system will be used to support human-machine system design. Develop and describe a concept prototype tools / workflows / processes with storyboards, mission narratives, and functional flow diagrams (or equivalent) to demonstrate how the technology being developed will support system design. A prototype description should be developed to include appropriate standards-based approaches to defining the human role in systems to the maximum practical extent. Define operational and technical metrics that will permit the demonstration of the utility of the approach during Phase II development. Propose notional elements on how the products created using the proposed tools would be stored and disseminated across a distributed design team. Describe the functionality of the anticipated for software prototypes being developed during Phases II and III of the effort. Software will need to run on a local machine, and work well in field conditions (i.e., no internet, no external connections or cloud connections, etc.). Define the proposed transition model and a development plan for successful development through Phase III of the SBIR/STTR process. Provide a Final Phase I report that includes detailed descriptions of the development approach, and the technical challenges to be addressed in Phase II. Develop a Phase II plan that includes detailed Program Objectives and Milestones (POAM) for the duration of the project effort. Describe proposed performance criteria and metrics to be used in evaluating technical progress of the effort through Phases II and III of this SBIR project. Identify transition targets (e.g., Naval Programs of Record or potential commercial customers) who are prepared to invest in the tool during Phases II and III.

PHASE II: Develop, demonstrate, and refine the Phase I concept prototype(s). Validate utility in supporting the design in one or more systems. Demonstrate applicability to system design for an actual system design. The demonstration should be based upon the planned commercialization / transition strategy. The effectiveness of the tool(s) / processes for using the tool(s) shall be demonstrated by applying the utility metrics defined in Phase I, as well as any additional metrics that may be developed in Phase II. Develop and document a specific plan for Phase III transition and commercialization for the identified transition customer(s). Provide a Final Phase II report that includes a detailed description of the approach and results measured against metrics developed in Phase I.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Refine the prototype and make its features complete in preparation for transition and commercialization based upon the requirements of the transition customer(s). In addition to the DoD, there will be an increasing demand for human performance system design tools and techniques useful for complex systems in the commercial sector, and in federal and state agencies, for example, self-driving cars, intelligent monitoring and clinical decision support for medical devices, and geophysical surveillance for mining and agriculture. These domains, and any domain looking to inject AI into existing structures involving humans and teams of humans could benefit significantly from the application of the solutions developed in this effort.


  1. Fitts, Paul M. (ed) "Human engineering for an effective air navigation and traffic control system." National Research Council, Washington, DC, 1951.
  2. Hancock, P.A. "On the future of hybrid human-machine systems." In: Wise JA, Hopkin VD, Stager P (eds) "Verification and validation of complex systems: human factors issues." Springer, Berlin, 1993, pp. 61-85.
  3. Hancock, P.A. and Chignell, M.H. "Mental workload dynamics in adaptive interface design." IEEE Trans Syst Man Cybern 18, 1988, pp. 647–658.
  4. Price, H.E. "The allocation of function in systems." Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 27, February 1, 1985, pp. 33-45.


KEYWORDS: Human; Machine; Acquisition; Life cycle; Automation; Artificial Intelligence; AI; System Design; Requirement; Technology Management; Human Factors


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 22.1 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

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